Two Guatemalans picked up for illegal gold panning
Two Guatemalan men are serving eight months in jail for illegally entering Belize, specifically the Chiquibul National Park, to mine for gold. The joint work of Police, Belize Defence Force and Friends for Conservation and Development personnel a week ago on November twenty-fifth led to the capture of Anibal Qui-ix Cucul of Monte Los Olivos, Petén, and Jose Amilcar Garcia Morales of Huite, Zacapa, Guatemala, who were convicted in Belmopan Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. It is uncertain if the Mining Unit will further charge them for extracting minerals without a permit. F.C.D. is once again warning of environmental impacts in the area as a result of the gold panners’ actions, although despite the presence of a conservation post in the area, the constant moving around makes it difficult to track offenders. News Five spoke to its executive director, Rafael Manzanero, today.
On the Phone: Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D.
“On the twenty-fifth of November, during one of the patrols located in Ceibo Chico, which is the southern part of Chiquibul, the unit, comprised of the Police, Belize Defence Force and F.C.D. park rangers, they were actually monitoring the activities of gold panning in the area, and they came about on a set or a group of Guatemalans who were doing gold panning. Unfortunately, many of them were able to escape, and only two of them were apprehended in separate locations. But both of them, in different zones, were some nine kilometres away from the western border, which basically meant that they were some nine kilometres into Belizean territory, and they were panning for gold. The issue with gold panning, people tend really to continuously be moving around the area, so we are not really that certain always where the people will be operating so it will be kind of difficult to apprehend them successfully. But the patrols down in Ceibo Chico area, where we have a conservation post – it has always been made and in fact the whole objective of that was practically to contain the illegal gold panning in the southern part of the Chiquibul. So there’s a lot of patrols being taken on a weekly basis in terms of trying to monitor and trying to see and detaining any individuals who might be doing illegal activities in that zone.”
According to an F.C.D. statement, Anibal Cucul admitted to illegally entering Belize and the Chiquibul no less than seven times to pan for gold. On his last entry he collected two and a half grams of gold for which he was paid at two hundred quetzals per gram for a total of five hundred dollars. However, the price has since been reduced to one hundred and eighty quetzals. The statement notes that since 2012, the communities in Guatemala located along the Chiquibul River which depend on the water from the forest through which the river runs, risk receiving contaminated waters as a result of activities like these. Community programs established at such villages as Monte Los Olivos have yet to have the needed impact to stop incursions into Belize, as it is the center of gold panning and selling in the area.